Action Annapolis Questionnaire
Gavin Buckley (D) | Mayor
Vision and Priorities
1. Please share your campaign vision and priorities. What strengths will you bring to the job, and what past experience has prepared you for the role of Alderman?
I am running because as an Annapolis small business owner for 20 years and a leader for the revitalization of West Street, I have seen this city grow in some areas, but too many times we have tried a solution only for it to fail because of a lack of vision and ability to bring people together. We need new leaders who truly understand how to build a town for all our residents, and a proven record of delivering on that vision. We need leaders to be gatekeepers for our values of open and responsive government; who will lead the state in green initiatives; who will bring 21st century transit solutions that prioritize: pedestrians, bicycles, trolleys & buses, and cars in that order; and who will bring real community policing reforms.
2. Do you support strengthening the role of the City Manager? Why or why not?As a small business owner, I know how important a good manager is to keep for all parts of a business. However, I am in my restaurants every day, doing whatever needs done – from delivering food, taking inventory, or bussing tables – and that is the exact hands-on approach we need from our next Mayor. The most successful city leaders are deeply involved with as many aspects of the city as possible – their partnership with the city manager is critical – but residents deserve a Mayor that will carry out the vision they campaigned upon.
3. Annapolis has vibrant economic opportunities. We also have a history of challenges in sustaining businesses in the City. What are your ideas in attracting and keeping businesses in Annapolis?
Retail has fundamentally changed whether we like it or not – and our city leaders must understand those changes and prepare our merchants for a world where daily needs can be filled by Amazon. Instead, we must offer residents and tourists alike what they cannot buy online: experiences and memories.
West Street has fewer vacancies than Main Street because we have created a racially and economically diverse community that celebrates culture and history through events like the First Sunday Arts Festival, Dining Under the Stars, the Christmas Lights, art installations, and more. Merchants who live, work, and raise their families right here in Annapolis have been the drivers of that progress – when you create an environment for people to care and invest, they give back.
4. How would you focus specifically on businesses owned by African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities?
I strongly believe in mentoring programs – people from marginalized areas should be shown models for creating a business plan and securing financing. It’s difficult to be the first in your family and professional network to create a business without a model to base your experience. The city can use its economic development office to support minority-owned businesses through training programs. Also, we can think about starting by emphasizing a diversity in food, which is often the first foothold for minority business owners.
5. The Market House has a history of instability. What are your plans for a long-term solution to stabilize the Market House for the next generation and make it a hub for city activities?
The Market House is no golden ticket but it is the best location in the city and is worth fighting for. I have a proposal that will right the wrong that we do not have a trace of an oysterman, or a crabber, and instead we have given over a major community center to jelly bean counters and slushie machines. I will fight to raise the bar of our city gastronomically because tourists will go where residents go – and we must lead the way in showing off who we are as a city once again.
6. Residents of HACA (Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis) locations continue to experience a disproportionate amount of crime and inadequate living conditions. What four actions would you recommend to address HACA residents’ immediate safety, security, and quality of life needs?
We need a four-pronged approach to truly address the issues facing HACA residents: More job opportunities through business development and encouraging business leaders to higher local to begin the long process of breaking down the divisions between our two Annapolis’s; increase real access to jobs by emphasizing bicycles and public transit; rebuild trust between police and the communities they serve by getting officers out of their cars and out of uniform as a sports coach or another capacity - kids should not meet officers for the first time at an arrest; and build and leverage relationships between city officials and community leaders to maintain a regular dialogue that ensures the city is on top of residents’ concerns.
7. With federal funding eliminated for renovation and new construction of public housing, where will money come from for redevelopment of our existing public housing?
Renovation and maintenance are critical to showing housing communities the city cares about you – Bloomsbury Square residents tell me they are proud to call that home, and they give back to the city. Money is always the key, and grants and partnerships with non-government organizations will be critical to updating projects – but beyond that, our city budget is a reflection of our priorities. In 2017, the city took out $4 million in bonds to pay for “general roadways” – when we do not budget responsibly and take out loans for recurring maintenance, residents of HACA get left behind.
8. Some of the housing has been redeveloped through public-private partnerships. Is this a good model, and why or why not?
It seems we’re running out of options as we see federal funding being stripped from these communities. I believe finding these public-private partnerships should be our biggest priority – I believe in safety nets and protecting those who need it. City budgets alone will not be able to address the systemic problems in some of our housing communities and we must be creative to bring more opportunity for success.
9. What is your position on privatizing of any of the city’s assets, e.g., recreational facilities, Market House, services?
In general, I am opposed to the city selling its assets. When you sell property, you lose control as a city to set your own path. Of course this is a case-by-case basis and each proposal needs to be considered on its merit – but we cannot rely on privatization as a quick way to fill a budget gap or use it as an excuse for poor management.
10. What will be your approach to reduce and prevent crime?
We must tackle the problem of heroin addiction head-on – drug related problems are a primary source of conflict in our city. I will prioritize compassionate community policing that addresses marginalized communities as people, not as criminals. I am for less militarization and more humanization. Importantly, crime is most permanently chased out when there is official activity – businesses, streetlights, events, vitality – and that is the single best way to keep people safe.
11. The budget currently before the City Council anticipates hiring additional police and fire employees. The city would have to provide funding in subsequent budgets to support the additional employees. What is your proposal regarding the source of those funds?
We must not let our hiring outpace the growth of our city. Each new hire impacts not only that year’s budget but our already-strained pension system as well. Our city’s bond rating is not Triple-A because our pension system is not funded at the levels we need. I am the only candidate in the race to have made a payroll – and know the commitment in financial, time, and human capital each new hire creates.
Budget and Taxes
12. How will you propose financing general budget needs?
The largest single contributor to the city budget is property tax revenue, which is consistent with other municipalities – and most residents would be able to guess that is true every April 15th when their tax bill comes. I do not support raising property taxes and chasing more people out of the city limits – instead, we have to leverage our position as a tourism center and consider a dedicated 0.5% sales tax from the state’s fund that will fill our capital budget for projects like the Hillman Garage. As the capital, nearly 45% of our buildings are not taxed because they are government property, and without a single cent of sales tax staying in Annapolis, we are disproportionately subsidizing non-residents.
13. What is your position on the current mayor’s proposed tax cut of $330,000?Residents don’t deserve small moves that won’t make a real difference to their bottom line in an election year – property tax payments still went up across the city with rising home values. A slight reduction in the rate is not ultimately going to make the difference when we still have serious bills and obligations to meet. We should not think about raising the rate but we should also not give cursory reductions for political gain.
14. Please rank the following for budget priorities, from highest to lowest priority: Arts, Community Parks and Recreation, Education, Infrastructure, Transparency, Transportation
5) Community parks & recreation
Equal Protection under the Law
15. In February 2017, the City Council passed Ordinance 0-1-17, Non-discrimination Foreign-Born Residents Equal Protection, acknowledging that all persons are due equal protection under the law. If you had been mayor/alderman at that time, how would you have voted on this ordinance, and why? If you are an incumbent, how did you vote and why?
I strongly support this ordinance. As an immigrant, I know how it feels to be in a new place without the protection of home. People are vulnerable and should not be singled out on the basis of skin color, national origin, or any other criteria. Period.
16. What are your environmental initiatives? What will you do to address long term environmental sustainability needs and what is your plan to pay for these initiatives?
We must get away from fossil fuels and invest in public transportation – breaking people of the habit of parking on the water and emphasizing impervious surfaces along City Dock create a crisis of stormwater runoff. Our comprehensive plan holds that any development must meet our mission of creating a “green” Annapolis and working to define standards that each property must meet in pursuit of that goal. Federal transportation grants, properly utilizing the stormwater fee for real infrastructure improvements, and partnering with developers will be critical to achieving my goals.
17. In March 2017, the City Council adopted the Forest Conservation Reforestation ordinance, known as “No Net Loss,” which requires developers to replace each acre of trees they cut down. If you had been mayor/alderman at that time, how would you have voted on this ordinance, and why?
Forests are a critical part of any healthy city. We should model ourselves after other urban areas that integrate trees and forests into the cityscape.
It is crucial for our planet and our children to protect forests. Annapolis can set a standard for developers that allow them to be proud of their contribution to the environmental health of our city. We must also balance No Net Loss with developers who are eager to comply with the law, and allowing their approved projects to proceed. The city can work with schools and individual citizens to find space for reforestation.
18. Do you believe that additional storm water treatment initiatives /efforts are required? If so, what would you recommend and how would they be funded?
The stormwater fee was intended to manage polluted runoff, not to pay staff. Or support the general budget. We must protect and dedicate the money collected for stormwater management for infrastructure as the law intended. Annapolis has not begun a real, robust retrofitting of our stormwater drains. The income from the fee should be used for this purpose.
To cover any additional staffing needs, the city should engage the local environmental chapters of non-profits, advocacy organizations, and schools. We must strengthen those connections to residents already working to increase water quality.
19. Would you consider joining with the 246 Mayors in the US in supporting the commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and work with them to support 21st Century a clean energy economy?
I was the first mayoral candidate to support the Paris climate agreement after the withdrawal. As a coastal city spending $10 million to develop a plan to deal with climate change, working to address the causes in our city is a no-brainer. We must be creative in combating climate change – encouraging public transportation, no net loss provisions – these are all important steps and we need to think big. The solar energy from the park could be used to make Annapolis more renewable and send a message that we care about setting an example.
20. The Eastport development project involves conflicts in the interpretation of the zoning code. How would you resolve this and future conflicts so that the developer and the community can rely on consistency in the approval process?The code is broken – it doesn’t matter what side of the fence you sit on, if you are a resident or developer you feel frustrated. When the rules are clear people will abide by them. Ambiguity and short term planning are recipes for trouble like we have in Eastport, when the city gets taken to court. We need a mayor involved in every step of the process and knowledgeable enough to anticipate the needs of residents to know where growth can survive and when it cannot, and to give developers realistic expectations for their proposals.
21. What is your position on requests being made by the Department of Recs and Parks for funding for the before and after-school program?
We must work to keep our kids as kids for as long possible – after school programs are vital to keeping kids engaged in the community and building skills that lead to jobs, not to a lack of economic opportunity.
22. How do you think art in public places should be regulated and financed?
I think this is an issue people are pretty familiar with from me – but I believe we must balance our colonial legacy with our recent history and our present. Allowing the Historic Preservation Commission to determine what constitutes art is a dangerous precedent that I fought and still believe. Our historic district is critical to the scale and fabric of Annapolis that we all love, but I believe there is a balance between what we’ve done at Tsunami, and the rest of the district. We look to municipalities around the country that have expanded their art community through encouraging art-friendly growth
23. Members of city boards and commissions are required to provide a signed Statement of Compliance with the Provisions of Ethics Ordinance, affirming that they understand the provisions of the city code regarding public ethics and financial disclosure. Several members of the advisory boards and city commissions resigned because they took issue with the wording of the statement. Do you support any changes to make the statement non-controversial, and if so, what changes?
[Buckley did not answer this question.]
24. Do you support the current Mayor-Council form of government or a Council - Manager form, and why?
No, the position of Mayor is critical to advocating for our residents as the only city-wide elected official. We need a full-time position to represent Annapolis’ interests to the county, state, and federal government and bring economic vitality back through Mayor-led business projects.
25. Should boards and commissions have final say on the level of detail needed for their minutes, as long as that level met all legal and code requirements?
Yes, if the level of detail is not sufficient then the code can be changed.
26. Would it be useful if the Mayor were to attend at least one board or commission hearing per month?
The Mayor should be very familiar with their boards. We have a situation where we cannot get volunteers on boards, and the Mayor’s presence would signal their worth and encourage more people to sign up. Anything we can do to encourage citizen participation because many of our board positions have not yet been filled.
27. Should annual reports for each board and commission be posted on the city website?
Yes, transparency is an important goal and we should work toward that in all areas.
28. How would you address the lack of women and minorities on City Boards and Commissions and as department heads? If so, how would you address it?
We should hire department heads and recruit board members that reflect the community they serve. We cannot determine balanced outcomes without a variety of experiences and backgrounds.